When facilitating strategic planning sessions, one of the most common tools we use is a SWOT analysis.
We generally find in every room there are people who have completed this exercise many times, some who have completed a SWOT only a couple of times, and occasionally we meet people who haven't yet participated in this great exercise.
The beauty of this tool is it doesn't matter if you're well experienced or you are still wondering what this thing is. It's a great way to look at the organisation through different lenses:
Once we have a big whiteboard set up, we brainstorm the good, the bad and the ugly and write all of the answers into the appropriate quadrant. The four quadrants are:
The trick is not to edit as you go. Don't only write up the opportunities you want to pursue, write them all up. This exercise is designed to open everyone's mind and get the thoughts flowing.
After the exercise is completed, we always come back and reflect on this in detail to ensure the strategic plan in considerate of all of the ideas thrown against the board. We certainly don't mean they all get included! The strategic plan is focused and will exclude many items from the SWOT, but will have considered them all initially.
It's an oldie, but a goodie!